Are cufflinks business casual clothing

Dress codes: Overview of the 10 most important dress rules

Clothing has always expressed who belongs to a social group - and who doesn't. Up until the end of the 18th century, such dress codes were issued for the respective estates by landlords, diets or city councils. Today, however, modern dress codes are only conventions, tacit agreements on the part of a host or employer. Nevertheless, the majority should stick to it. Otherwise, you may attract negative attention both at work and at other events. But what do dress codes such as “casual”, “smart casual” or “black tie” mean? And how formal does it have to be in the job? We explain what you need to know about dress codes in order to always be properly dressed ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Dress code rules and what they mean

First of all: Dress codes are now interpreted more freely in many areas and enjoy greater leeway than was the case in the past. Dress codes are not set in stone and are interpreted differently not only from industry to industry, but also from company to company (see below). However, that doesn't mean that you can ignore them and just wear whatever you feel like. As a rule of thumb, you are never wrong yourself when you are dressed a little better than expected - after all, it is always possible to take off your clothes.

Especially if you are unsure about what to wear, you can use it as a guide. Newcomers to the company are usually looked up when they ask, when the occasion arises, which clothing is expected from you or which dress code applies in the company. It would be worse if you didn't ask - and fool around.

You should also make sure to adhere to the dress code at celebrations and other official occasions. When asked to show up in a suit, leave your jeans in the closet and don't even think about shorts. It is about respect for the host and the event. Just turn the tables and wonder how you would feel if a guest showed up in swimming trunks and flip-flops at your celebratory wedding, where everyone is dressed appropriately.

Also, always remember that a dress code is not introduced or required to impose their own will on employees or guests. A dress code reflects expectations and has a great influence on the atmosphere. A professional appearance is often required in the job, which is reflected in the dress code; events in the evening are more solemn. If a dress code is adhered to, it looks much more coherent and harmonious, which contributes to the overall perception.

Dress codes for the day

The dress code is determined by various aspects, whereby it is often omitted to explicitly specify a written dress code. This is also shown by a survey that we carried out on the dress code in DAX companies (PDF). Rather, it is conventions and social and business expectations that determine the dress code. But whether written down or not: There are different names for the different dress codes that you first have to understand in order to be able to dress appropriately.

In the following list we explain what the individual dress codes are - we start with dress codes and dress codes that you encounter during the day, both at work and on other occasions that take place and begin at noon or in the afternoon:


Translated, casual means casual clothing, but you shouldn't wear sweatpants with this dress code. Rather, what is meant is an outfit that is relaxed, but still presentable. So: ironed cotton trousers, polo shirt and jacket. Nice jeans in combination with a shirt is also a casual outfit. There is no place for a tie or bow tie in a casual look. When it comes to shoes, you can go for suitable and well-groomed sneakers, i.e. sneakers. However, it shouldn't be the completely worn out kicks.

An open shirt (never more than two buttons!) And a sweater over the shoulder are also an option. In the USA, especially on the west coast, jeans and T-shirts are also allowed to go “casual”, while on the east coast khakis, polo shirts and blazers are more likely to be allowed. Manhattan's version of the “New York Casual” is, on the other hand, more elegant: Here the polo shirt should be exchanged for a colored button-down shirt. Women can wear both jeans and fabric pants, dresses, backs or blouses. When it comes to jewelry, it can be a bit more conspicuous, as long as it matches the outfit. Open shoes and sneakers are no problem for women in a casual outfit and can be combined very well. On the other hand, you should avoid spaghetti tops and short shorts.

Business casual

At more informal occasions such as a business brunch or a casual reception, as well as on business trips, at internal meetings and on so-called "Casual Friday", things are more casual than in everyday life, but not too casual. A total leisure look is not appropriate here either, since it is still a business meeting. For men, colored shirts are more appropriate, preferably with button-down collars instead of shark collars, for a change also polo shirts or fine knitted sweaters with matching pants made of fabric. You can also do without a tie here. Men can then also wear loafers or slippers on their feet - this is not a style break with business casual outfits. With dark shoes with matching trousers and a jacket, you are definitely properly dressed for business casual. Women can really let off steam with the “business casual” dress code: fashionable blouses, pullovers, skirts and cotton trousers can be combined as the mood takes them, and open-toe shoes such as peep-toes or sandals are also allowed.

Business Attire (Day Informal, Tenue de Ville)

This is the dress code that is classically associated with the world of work. The meaning is translated according to business attire or work wardrobe. It is, so to speak, the related but upscale variant of "business casual". For men, a suit is a must for business attire; in addition to black or gray, blue or brown are also allowed. A tie and simple shoes are also part of the outfit. A light, monochromatic shirt should be worn under the suit. Cufflinks can be put on but are not a must.

Also watch out for dark, preferably black, socks. These should be covered by the pants anyway, but the entire style is lost if too brightly colored or printed socks come to light. Women can wear a pantsuit with this dress code, but fabric pants in combination with a blouse can also work. Jewelry and accessories should be chosen more discreetly for the outfit. The heels shouldn't be too high and the toes shouldn't be visible.

Business formal

As the term suggests, the formal business dress code becomes a little more formal. This look is particularly common in senior positions at the workplace, but business is also formally welcomed in certain areas of responsibility. In direct customer contact, for example, or in management positions, men wear a two- or three-piece dark suit with a shirt, tie and smooth leather shoes. The colors black or anthracite are common; however, gray, brown or cognac are also possible. You match the rest of the clothing to the suit color. Pinstripes, colored ties and pastel colored shirts with stripes are allowed. However, if you never wear more than two patterns on your body at the same time, this means: If the tie is patterned, there will be a maximum of stripes in the suit or Shirt - never both!

Women, on the other hand, usually choose a chic costume or a pantsuit with a blouse. In terms of color, you do not need to be different from the men. Regardless of whether it is a dress, suit or skirt: the hem should always surround your knees. More leg is a faux pas with this code. Of course, skirts and dresses also include skin-colored tights and pumps on the feet - the heel should not be higher than six centimeters.


Don't be fooled by the name of this dress code: Semi-formal does not mean that it is only half as formal as formal business. This dress code is usually used when contact with the executive suite or contact with external customers is the order of the day. A mixture of the classic outfits already mentioned comes into question. The top priorities here, however, are elegance and representativeness. The basic tenor for men is the dark suit with shirt and tie. If semi-formal is mentioned at an evening event, it can even mean a tuxedo.

A costume, dress or trouser suit is expected for women, although dark colors are also recommended. If you decide on a dress or a skirt, make sure that it is knee-length and that you wear opaque stockings underneath. Both jewelry and makeup are discreet and rather inconspicuous to choose.

The dress code in the job is becoming more and more relaxed

The dress code at work is becoming increasingly relaxed. Employees rarely have to wear uniforms (15.4 percent); the majority (47.6 percent) are allowed to wear whatever they want at work. Only 8.6 percent go to the office in formal clothes such as suits or suits. The rest wear smart casual clothes, which leaves a lot of freedom and scope for interpretation. That is the result of a LinkedIn survey with more than 1000 employees in Germany. Also noteworthy: In addition to the daily styling, the appearance on career platforms has also gained in importance: Profiles that contain a photo are viewed 14 times more often than those without a picture.

Dress codes for the evening

Smart Casual (Come as you are)

Usually for invitations that begin immediately after work, for example receptions, lectures, exhibitions or business lunches. Conservative business attire is allowed here. If you come straight from the office, let men wear suit trousers and shoes, but take off their tie, for example, and take off their jacket. If, on the other hand, you come from home, elegant casual wear is trendy: shirt or polo shirt and trousers or dark (!) Jeans. V-neck or round neck sweaters over a long-sleeved shirt are also popular.

Women, on the other hand, can combine skirts or trousers with T-shirts, fashionable tops or loose blouses. Especially in summer, when it's hot, you can also wear an airy summer dress. Smart casual is characterized by a loose, yet elegant style of clothing. A trouser suit is also okay, but by no means necessary. However, large handbags with shoulder straps are a faux pas. Only clutch bags go with trouser suits or suits - small handbags without straps. And when it comes to skirt length in business, the following applies: Never shorter than a hand's breadth above the knee. The costume skirt should also not sit too tight and should not wrinkle when standing.


Is often chosen for evening events, but should by no means be taken literally. Informal in this context only means that no tuxedo, tailcoat or evening dress is expected for women. Nevertheless, an elegant appearance in the right outfit is expected. Men wear dark gray or black suits, women wear half-length, elegant dresses or a trouser suit. Basically, the informal dress code is similar to the business attire

Black tie

Often required on official evening occasions or an upscale dinner. The black tie dress code (also called cravate noir) no longer has much to do with the outfit you wear in the office. Here, too, you must not be misled by the name, because a tie is not part of clothing. Men wear a black tuxedo, a white shirt with a reinforced collar and double cuffs, a cummerbund (or waistcoat) and handkerchief, a black bow tie and black shoes. The style is much more festive than on business occasions.

Women should fall back on a long, usually monochrome evening dress. Striking patterns or bright colors tend not to fit. The look also includes closed pumps, the heel of which should not be higher than 5 to 6 centimeters. Jewelry and makeup should underline the elegant outfit. An evening bag is also possible.

White tie

It has to be a very special event for White Tie (or Cravate Blanche) to be required as a dress code. As a rule, this only applies to highly official evening events, balls or state banquets. An outfit cannot get any more elegant or refined. He wears black tailcoat and trousers, a white waistcoat with a deep neckline, a stand-up collar shirt with bent corners and a concealed button placket, patent leather shoes and, of course, a white bow tie.

A floor-length evening dress - often in black, white or gray - is a must for women. She wears closed shoes and silk stockings with the long ball gown. Gloves are also allowed, but are usually mentioned separately in the invitation.


A dress code that is rarely requested, even if many associate it with the well-known cocktail dress. This occurs at elegant parties or vernissages from 4 p.m. Basically it should be elegant, but there is more freedom than with other outfits. Men usually wear a chic, dark suit, shirt, tie and casual lace-up shoes. You can vary the colors a little. The suit doesn't have to be black, gray or blue tones are also good options for more variety. The shirt does not have to be strictly white either, but can also be chosen light blue.

Women can't go much wrong with the cocktail dress already mentioned. The classic "little black dress" also fits the occasion. With the cocktail dress code, a little skin can also be shown, both shoulders, cleavage and legs (only from the knee) do not have to be completely covered.

Lab coat effect: How the dress code affects us

Clothing today also serves to express moods, but even more to express one's own identity. What many forget: Clothing also influences our thoughts and feelings - just as others perceive us. There is also a fascinating experiment by researchers at the Kellog School of Management. They made students wear lab coats before starting their experiments. Lo and behold: the students were promptly more attentive and focused. When the test subjects were only asked to imagine that they were wearing such a smock during a control experiment, they only achieved average results. For the researchers, this is considered evidence that the wearing of symbolic (work) clothing influences our thinking and our performance.

One study shows that employees feel more productive, trustworthy and competent when they wear a suit - but friendlier when they appear “casual” to work. In Anglo-Saxon there is a suitable slogan for the so-called lab coat effect: “Dress for success” - don't get dressed for the job you have, but for the one you would like to have (one day). Of course, there isn't such obvious symbolic clothing for every job as in the lab coat above. However, you could also orientate yourself on your environment, for example on those colleagues who are considered to be particularly competent, enjoy a lot of respect and a lot of sympathy or are particularly successful.

If you have the opportunity, pay attention to details, too: other research has shown that men who wear a tailored suit are perceived to be more confident, successful, and flexible than men who wear an off-the-rack suit. Ultimately, it's about communicating more consciously through clothing - more subtle, but no less effective.

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